How to Implement a Successful Wellness Program
December 7, 2010 / Corporate Wellness
Our customers tell us that there are several reasons that programs they’ve attempted have failed in their organizations.
The main reasons are:
- low participation
- Lack of trust in giving personal data
- Absence of compelling call to action or clear benefit for the effort
From an employer’s point of view, previous programs were not well integrated into a common, impactful strategy, or lacked the ability to track and report measurable health outcomes.
Yet even with the shortcomings of traditional programs, a number of recent studies show that employers recognize the importance of getting and keeping their employees healthy and see true prevention strategies as the best approach to managing health care costs. With the success of so many programs hampered by lack of participation and long-term engagement, we think it is important to take a look at what employees are saying will motivate and engage them in these efforts?
Make programs broadly applicable. To have a significant impact on an organization, the program must appeal to and apply to everyone. While targeted programs intended to address specific conditions and diseases (such as smoking cessation, disease management and weight management programs) are beneficial and necessary in most cases, employers must also take a preventative approach to wellness by providing an overarching program that engages and influences the vast majority of their populations who don’t fall into these categories. The better job a company does to implement programs that apply across the board, the better the employee response and overall results.
Incorporate multiple behavior change strategies. Behavior change is essential to the success of any employee health program you put in place. Some of the ones we’ve found to be highly effective include: goal setting and progress tracking, providing feedback, running challenges and competitions, offering financial incentives, and providing opportunities for social engagement. By focusing on getting your employees to make healthy behavior changes, you’ll not only see improvements in the overall health of your employees but also in the health of your business through medical cost savings.
Incorporate an incentives-based approach. Recently we conducted a survey and found that nearly 70% of respondents agreed that incentives are a powerful motivator and effective in getting employees to make healthy behavior changes. But it’s important to stress that the incentives must be meaningful and tied to the behaviors you want to encourage. Aligning incentives for actual, ongoing performance keeps employees striving toward health goals. What’s more, it ensures you that the incentives you provide are for actual results that will impact your employees’ health and your bottom line.
Secure senior management support. It’s also crucial to ensure that management walks the talk and supports employees’ efforts to be healthier. To gain senior level support, seek programs that capture and deliver real, validated data and have effective reporting mechanisms. Together, these will help you demonstrate the true impact these programs have on your population and garner even great support from the top.
Create a network of champions. Another strategy we’ve found to be effective is creating a network of champions or program advocates who help spread the word and generate peer-to-peer excitement for the program. Champions can be extremely effective at providing motivation and encouragement to other employees over the long term, thereby sustaining and enhancing participation in your programs.
Embrace the power of competition. Challenges and competitions make healthy behavior change fun and less daunting. They also help to generate and foster excitement, well after the program has launched. They’re also an especially effective tool in helping engage dispersed workforces. For companies with employees in multiple locations, challenges offer a way to get the separate locations talking and interacting with one another, thereby creating a broader community of peers to connect with and support each other in making long-term healthy changes.
Make programs personal, measurable and easy to use. Keep it simple – a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work. Make sure the programs are personal – let employees create healthier habits that work within their lifestyles to achieve long-term sustainability.
Make sure they’re measurable – ensure that both the company and its employees have the tools to track and see their progress over time.
And make sure they’re easy-to-use – if employees perceive a high level of difficulty or complexity in your programs, it’s likely that engagement and participation will suffer as a result.